A former president at musical.ly (now known as TikTok), Alex Hofmann has already done something that seems impossible: He helped build an app that could compete with social giants like Meta, YouTube, and Snapchat. After ByteDance acquired musical.ly for around $1 billion in 2018, Hofmann left the company to become an investor, but he soon decided he wanted to make apps again. So, Hofmann founded 9count, the parent company of apps like Everland, Helpline, Juju, and the friendship-making app Wink, which has millions of users.
So far, Wink is 9count’s most successful app, which is popular among younger users who want to make new friends online (Hofmann says that the app has a content moderation team of 15 people who work 24/7). But Wink connects people without regard to location, so long as the users speak the same language. This design is intentional — the company didn’t want to face the security issue of people meeting up in real life, since the app is available for users 13 and up.
Unlike many popular dating apps, Spark doesn’t ask you to swipe left or right. Instead, you can see people around you all at once in a grid, kind of like on Grindr. But unlike Grindr, you thankfully can only receive messages from people if you’ve both “sparked” (or liked) each other.
Similar to an app like Bumble, once you send a like or a message on Spark, the request only lasts 24 hours.
Spark has already “soft-launched” in hundreds of countries, climbing to No. 1 in the iOS app store in Ireland and the Netherlands within a day. While the app is free to use, there’s also a subscription option, which gives users standard paid dating app perks like the ability to see everyone who liked you, extra “sparks,” and more. Hofmann noted that the exact pricing and benefits are still subject to change, but that right now, a subscription is $19.99 per month, with slight discounts if you subscribe for three or 12 months at a time.
When it comes to safety, Spark uses Hive, an AI moderation tool, to make sure that users aren’t uploading harmful or NSFW content to their profiles. Like Wink, Spark has a 24/7 trust and safety team. Spark also hired a security expert to spot bugs and vulnerabilities on the platform before they can be exploited by bad actors.